Arts·Canada's a Drag

After losing everything, Kelowna queen Jenna Telz found new light...in the church of drag

Drag didn't just change her life — it gave her one. Watch Canada's a Drag Season 2 now.

Drag didn't just change her life — it gave her one

Jenna Telz in downtown Kelowna. (CBC Arts)

Jenna Telz is just one of the many fabulous subjects featured in Canada's a Drag, a docu-series from CBC Arts that showcases drag artists from across the true North strong and fierce. You can watch all 21 episodes here.​

After being expelled by his family and his church for being gay, Grayson Nordgren found his way to the drag persona of Jenna Telz. And through Jenna, he found a place in the world.

"It was a short while after losing my family and friends due to being disfellowshipped from the Jehovah's Witnesses," he remembers. "It was Drag Race that really exposed me to just how powerful a queer person can be through art, and also that sense of sisterhood and community that is created around it."

Grayson remembers that the first time he saw drag, it struck him "as the closest thing we have to magic in the real world." And now, thanks in very large part to Jenna Telz, Kelowna — a city of roughly 125,000 people — has so much more of that magic than it did just a few years ago.

"What inspires me now is building a community locally and reaching out to youth at an age where I had no role models."

Watch the episode:

Episode 11 5:28

Series Producers: Mercedes Grundy and Peter Knegt
Episode Director: Steven Roste
Packaging Editor: March Mercanti 
Titles Designer: Hope Little

Jenna says that her goth-inspired drag persona is "very much focused on deeper dark emotions."

"[It's] a cathartic way for me to find empowerment in negative experiences in my life," she says. "I think a unique aspect of my drag is that I prefer to perform darker songs, and much more heavy metal and hard rock than your average pop queen."

Coming from where Jenna did with her family and her church, it was "incredibly disorienting" to essentially start over "with no real sense of purpose."

"Drag became my purpose and anchor in life, the thing that gets me up every morning and that lingers as my last thoughts before sleep. I feel incredibly blessed to have found something that motivates me so."

Jenna Telz does her makeup. (CBC Arts)

Jenna does not have a day job outside of drag, focusing her life entirely on the art form and its ability to help grow the local Kelowna queer scene and empower her community. That doesn't always make her life easy, but it certainly does make it fulfilling. "Instead of preaching hate and handing out Watchtowers," she says, "I now preach acceptance on the microphone and the gospel of heavy metal on stage."

Follow Jenna Telz on Instagram.

Meet the other 12 kings and queens in the second season of Canada's a Drag here.

About the Author

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and playing integral roles in the launch and production of series The Filmmakers and Canada's a Drag. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also a stand-up comedian, the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.